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Our Atlanta wrongful death attorneys read a news article recently about two wrongful death cases in Athens regarding pedestrians killed by cars. Areas with large numbers of pedestrians and other forms of transport, such as bicycles, need to make sure drivers are aware of the dangers of driving around these more vulnerable people close to the road.

DSC05911bBoth wrongful death suits were filed in Clarke County Superior Court. One victim was 73 year-old Roger Griffith. After suffering an injury 20 years ago that made walking difficult, particularly over long distances, he often used a wheelchair to get around. A car hit him as he crossed Lexington Road in his electric wheelchair on the night of April 8th last year. He was killed instantly. The police report noted that Mr. Griffith’s wheelchair was not equipped with lights or reflectors, and a portion of the street where the accident occurred did not have street lights. His wife, Zelma Griffith, said her husband often used his wheelchair to visit people and run errands, and to travel to the bus stop on Lexington Road. The police did not cite the 66 year-old driver of the car that hit Mr. Griffith. I
n her complaint, Zelma Griffith stated that Mr. Griffith had crossed two lanes when the car hit him, and that Mr. Griffith “had already entered the roadway under safe conditions” when the driver failed to yield. She filed the lawsuit on July 22, and is seeking to recover the full value of her husband’s life, “in an amount to be determined by the enlightened conscience of a fair and impartial jury.”

The second lawsuit involved the death of 33 year old Teri Lynn Manders. A car struck Ms. Manders as she crossed West Broad Street on May 19. She was taken to the hospital but, due to the severity of her injuries, was taken off life support six days later. Police did not cite the driver, and found that Ms. Manders was wearing dark clothing at the time. On July 18, the administrator of Ms. Manders’ estate filed a negligence claim against the 65 year-old driver and her 78 year-old brother, who was a passenger in the car. The complaint asserts that the driver was reckless and failed to yield the right of way to Ms. Manders on the road. It also claims the brother was negligent “in entrusting (his sister) with his automobile when he knew or should have known that she was incapable of operating a motor vehicle.” The lawsuit seeks compensation for Ms. Manders’ life, and punitive damages “in a fair amount to be determined by the jury.”

Atlanta Wrongful Death Lawyers

If a loved one has died as a result to negligence, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer. The Law Office of Sammons & Carpenter can help you understand your options and advise you on how to proceed. Please contact us as soon as possible at 404-814-8948, or fill out our confidential online case evaluation form for a free consultation.

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med mal 3Our Atlanta psychiatrist malpractice attorney recently read an alarming story about a former University of Florida psychiatry professor forced to give up his Florida medical licence last June. This case before the Board of Medicine concerned his involvement in the death of a patient, Alice Tomlinson, in 2010. The ruling also required that he agree to never reapply for a Florida medical license. The psychiatrist, Dr. Harold E. Smith, had already had his medical license suspended or revoked in several states, including Georgia, Arkansas, Virginia, and Tennessee. He has had several disciplinary actions brought against him over a span of more than 20 years.

The case of Dr. Smith demonstrates just how worrying it can be when doctors can avoid the damage of malpractice claims and bad professional conduct by moving between states, each of which has its own licensing structure. In addition to the state actions against him, Dr. Smith had also been subject to disciplinary action by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration in 2011 that led to the revocation of his certificate to prescribe controlled substances due to his submitting false information. These disciplinary actions, which were all due to his problems with drugs and alcohol, ought to have warned of continuing misconduct on the part of Dr. Smith.

The University of Florida Health Shands Hospital hired Dr. Smith one year ago as an assistant professor in the College of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry. He also treated patients with alcohol and drug addiction at the Florida Recovery Center. At the time of his hiring, he already faced the complaint over Ms. Tomlinson’s death, who had been prescribed Oxycontin despite showing signs of oversedation. She was discovered on the floor, unresponsive, and was later pronounced dead at the hospital. At the time of Ms. Tomlinson’s death, Dr. Smith had two prior actions against him in Florida, one was for improperly prescribing Oxycontin to family members, the other was for using crack cocaine and opioids. The University of Florida has refused to discuss what they knew about Dr. Smith’s problems with drug and alcohol abuse prior to his hiring. Dr. Smith was put on unpaid leave in December, and then resigned in May.

There lawsuit over Ms. Tomlinson’s death is ongoing, and is scheduled next year for trial in Orange County. Ms. Tomlinson’s husband settled confidentially with the hospital involved, Central Florida Behavioral Hospital in Orlando.

Atlanta Psychiatrist Malpractice Lawyers

If a negligent psychiatrist has hurt you or a loved one, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer. The Law Office of Sammons & Carpenter may be able to help you understand your case and advise you on how to proceed. Please contact us as soon as possible at 404-814-8948, or fill out our confidential online case evaluation form for a free consultation today.

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Our Atlanta truck accident lawyers know that tractor trailers can be dangerous to other cars on the road, but also to pedestrians, cyclists, or people who have to stop by the side of the road for an emergency. Tragically, a recent news story has shown that all too clearly again, cutting short the life of a promising young athlete.

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Torrin Lawrence, 25 years old, was a champion runner at the University of Georgia, where he graduated in 2013 with a degree in sociology. While on the Georgia track and field team from 2009-2012, he was the SEC and NCAA champion, set a collegiate record, and held three school records. He was a four time All-American and in 2010 was the US Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association National Male Track Athlete of the Year. Before his tragic death, he was competing as a professional athlete in Atlanta and representing the US track and field team at international competitions. He had a successful career ahead of him as one of the fastest sprinters in the country. He ran for the US at the IAAF World Relays in Nassau, the Bahamas, two months ago, running the first leg of the 4×400 relay and helping the team capture gold. And in early July, he ran a personal best outdoor time of 45.32 at a competition in Belgium.

Torrin was driving home to Jacksonville, Florida, after training in Athens when his car had a flat tire on Interstate 75 near Cordele, about 90 miles from the Georgia-Florida border, on Monday morning. His car was stopped in a southbound lane and Torrin got out of the car to call 911. A tractor trailer smashed into his car, knocking the car into him. He died at the scene from injuries sustained in the crash.

The CEO of USA Track and Field, Max Siegel, said,  “We were devastated to learn of Torrin’s passing early this morning. Torrin represented USATF with pride and passion, and had an incredible future ahead of him. We join those who will miss him deeply.” And Wayne Norton, the track coach at Georgia, said, “In speaking for the UGA track and field community, I am shocked and pained with news of Torrin’s death. First, my prayers for comfort are for Torrin’s mother and family. Second, this makes me reflect on Torrin and remember him as one of the greatest talents I have ever seen in our sport and as gentle man.” He also said, “Torrin was an easy person to get along with and almost always improved the atmosphere wherever he went. He did some great things in track and for UGA.”​

Atlanta Truck Accident Lawyers

If you or a loved one has been hurt in a vehicle crash due to the negligence of another driver, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer. The Law Office of Sammons & Carpenter may be able to help you understand your case and advise you how to proceed, so contact us as soon as possible at 404-814-8948, or fill out our confidential online case evaluation form for a free consultation today.

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Our Atlanta medical malpractice attorneys read about a medical malpractice judgment that was overturned due to a trial judge responding to a note from a juror, which was found to be improper by the Georgia Court of Appeals.

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The case is Phillips v. Harmon, and the trial judge, Judge Benjamin Studdard of Henry County Superior Court, received, among other notes, one from a juror saying the jury was deadlocked. The attorney for the plaintiff only found out about this note after the trial had concluded. During the trial, Judge Studdard had notified counsel of four other notes sent to him by the jury, but not about this particular note. He also did not mention to counsel his directions that the jury continue to deliberate, and did not preserve the notes for the record.

The case was about the mother of a child born blind and quadriplegic after a difficult birth. The two week trial ended with a verdict for the defendants, gynecologist Deborah Haynes, nurse-midwife Marcia Harmon, and Eagle’s Landing Ob-Gyn Associates. It was only two weeks after this verdict that one juror, Beverly Lemon Angelo, called the plaintiff’s attorney and told him the jury was deadlocked at the end of the second day of deliberations and the jury foreman had sent a note to the judge. Judge Studdard sent back a note in reply, “Please continue deliberating.” Ms. Angelo and another juror, Sandra Lynn Tanner, who did not agree with the majority felt like this instruction meant they should drop their objections and go with the majority. Ms. Tanner stated that she believed the instructions meant they had to keep deliberating until there was a unanimous verdict. She did not know that if there was no unanimous verdict another jury would hear the case.

The Georgia Court of Appeals found that the conduct with the note violated the Georgia Constitution and also legal precedent established in criminal law. A trial judge should not communicate with a jury about a case in the absence of the accused and his counsel. The judgment stated there was no reason for this rule to be different in civil cases. Judge Carla Wong McMillian, writing for the Court, stated, “[A]s a general proposition and broadly stated, a trial judge should not answer a question from the jury in a civil case about their ability to reach a verdict unless the parties and/or their counsel are present as well.”
The judgment did not make a determination as to whether Judge Studdard’s conduct violated the Georgia Code of Judicial Conduct. Judge Studdard asserts that his actions did not violate judicial ethics.

Atlanta Medical Malpractice Lawyers

If you or a loved one has been injured by a negligent medical proffesional, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer. The Law Office of Sammons & Carpenter may be able to help you understand your case and advise you how to proceed, so contact us as soon as possible at 404-814-8948, or fill out our confidential online case evaluation form for a free consultation today.

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Our Atlanta medical malpractice attorneys know that an experienced and committed attorney is invaluable for any case. And when an attorney does not do his or her job, it jeopardizes a client’s case and also the achievement of justice. A medical malpractice case involving a Georgia lawyer who mishandled the case was in the news recently.

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Mike Berlon surrendered his legal license to the Supreme Court of Georgia. He is a former chairman of the Democratic Party in Georgia, a position he held until summer of 2013, and practiced law in Gwinnett County. He received a reprimand last summer from the Supreme Court and was pressured to resign as Democratic Party chairman by Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed. The medical malpractice case that is at issue began in June 2010. Mr. Berlon was concerned about the expiration of the statute of limitations in that case, but did not inform his client. In an opinion on the issue from the Supreme Court, the Court said he told his client that he “believed there was sufficient time in which to file an action and falsely led her to believe that he was actively working on the case by sending a demand letter, contacting expert witnesses, and preparing to file an action.” In reality, Mr. Berlon never filed any action on behalf of the client and continued to give her bad advice through the beginning of 2012. Not only was the case handled so badly, but the Supreme Court also found that Mr. Berlon’s responses to the complaint about the case with the Georgia State Bar also contained “factual misrepresentations.”

It is also not the only incident of misconduct by Mr. Berlon. He also reached a settlement with two other former clients in an unrelated case to reimburse them for over $1 million. That money was to establish an estate trust, but Mr. Berlon allegedly used the money for personal things. However, as of April 2014, that money was still not returned to the clients. When asked about it, he said, “There’s a lot more to it. I’m confident that once we get through the entire process that this is all going to work out.”

Mr. Berlon told reporters that surrendering his legal license over the medical malpractice case was “the right thing to do.” About this issue, he said, “There’s really no other side of the story to tell. My office was hired to handle a malpractice case for somebody and basically we didn’t get it right. I’m ultimately responsible for that. We just missed it. There were some errors that were made.” He continues to believe he will be readmitted as an attorney in Georgia in the future and he has received other offers for “a lot of different things.”

Atlanta Medical Malpractice Lawyers

If you or a loved one has been injured by a negligent medical professional, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer. This case shows clearly how important it is to have a good lawyer on your side when dealing with a medical malpractice case, or any case. To discuss any steps to move forward with legal options for the abusive situation, contact the Law Office of Sammons & Carpenter as soon as possible at 404-814-8948, or fill out our confidential online case evaluation form for a free consultation today.

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Our Atlanta elder abuse attorneys read an article about an employee of a nursing home in Thomasville being accused of elder abuse. That employee is Shauntavia Bates, a 25-year-old who worked at Southern Pines Senior Living. On May 16, police allege that Ms. Bates hit an elderly 81-year-old woman and sprayed her with water as she called for help. Another employee heard her cries and went to investigate. The other employee said she saw the elderly woman standing in the shower and Ms. Bates was forcing water into her mouth. The woman could not speak at that point because her mouth was too full of liquid. The other employee also saw Ms. Bates hit the woman with the back of her hand on her neck.

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Another woman, Ms. Bates’ supervisor Stacey Sams, was allegedly told about the abuse and did not report it. Ms. Sams has now also been charged for failure to report abuse of a disabled or elderly person, which is a misdemeanour crime.
The police were only notified of this incident in June. Ms. Bates was arrested in June, one day after the incident was reported. Ms. Sams turned herself in a few days after Ms. Bates’ arrest. Thomasville Police Department spokesperson Lieutenant Eric Hampton said, “Disturbing when you hear these kind of things happen. We take it very seriously when it’s reported to us and so we do take immediate action.” He further said, “The reason Ms. Sams was charged in the case is because she failed to report it after the witness had reported it to her.” Southern Pines Senior Living said they brought the incident to the police when they learned of it and are cooperating in the investigation.
Ms. Bates denies the whole incident and says she is innocent. She told reporters, “It breaks my heart because I have three kids, two step kids. I am a wife, my heart goes out to the elderly.” Of the incident, she said, “I washed her hair, gave her a shower, the same way that I would do if 1,000 people we’re watching.” She also said, “The detective asked what would I do different, I’d still go in and give a shower the same exact way, I wouldn’t change anything at all.” Ms. Bates insists she would never harm anyone, that she worked at Southern Pines because she wanted to help people, and that she is looking forward to clearing her name.
Ms. Bates was released from jail on a $5,100 bond and the Thomasville Police Department is still trying to determine why this alleged abusive incident may have happened.

Atlanta Elder Abuse Lawyers

If an elderly loved one has been the victim of elder abuse, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer. To discuss any steps to move forward with legal options for the abusive situation, contact the Law Office of Sammons & Carpenter as soon as possible at 404-814-8948, or fill out our confidential online case evaluation form for a free consultation today.

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This blog has discussed cases against Georgia’s Division of Family and Child Services (DFCS) before (see previous blog here). Our Atlanta wrongful death lawyers recently read about yet another tragic case involving a child, a 16-year-old disabled girl named Markea, who died under tragic circumstances, and under watch of the department that is supposed to protect child welfare in our state.

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Markea’s mother hated her, and her grandmother said she did not know why Ebony Berry had so much hatred for her daughter, saying, “She punished her. She hated her daughter.” Markea died of starvation in 2012, and her mother is in Cobb County Jail charged with the crime. At a hearing on the case of her death, investigators said Markea weighed less than 50 pounds. Cobb County Detective Christopher Twiggs said of her, “I could see most of the bones in her body. There was hardly any muscle mass left. Just a skeleton with skin is the way I could best describe it.”
There were worrisome reports from Michigan’s DFCS for the years 1999 to 2004, but they were incomplete and Georgia DFCS did not followed up on them. The State of Georgia has a 150 page case file on Markea, which chronicles the long-term abuse she suffered. As early as 2005, a DFCS caseworker found her isolated and unfed. The case file was started in 2009. Even from that time, the case file said she was “very thin” and caseworker was concerned she was not being fed. Markea, who was 14 years old at the time, was found in 2010 hiding at a Wal-Mart, afraid to go home. She told investigators she often went there to sleep. She said she’d rather stay at Wal-Mart than go home because she was a burden to her mother. At that time, DFCS investigated but took no further action because Ebony Berry would not cooperate. In June 2012, Ebony Berry called 911 saying her daughter was not responsive. Detectives found that she had been starved and charged her mother with murder.
Now the administrator of Markea’s estate has filed a $1 million lawsuit against DFCS for wrongful death. The lawsuit is seven pages showing all the ways DFCS failed Markea. This includes an affidavit from a veteran social worker outlining missteps and clear red flags, constituting negligence in her opinion, and that “a proper DFCS investigation is likely to have prevented Markea Berry’s death by starvation.”

Atlanta Wrongful Death Attorneys

If a loved one has died unnecessarily due to the negligent conduct of another, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer. To discuss any steps to move forward with legal options in your case, contact the Law Office of Sammons & Carpenter as soon as possible at 404-814-8948, or fill out our confidential online case evaluation form for a free consultation today.

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Our Atlanta nursing home abuse lawyers have followed the case of George Houser (see previous blog post here) since he was convicted of fraud in 2012. This month the case was in the news again, as the federal appeals court upheld that conviction.

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George Houser, 66 years old, was convicted in 2012 of conspiracy to defraud Medicare, failure to file quarterly tax returns, and failure to file income taxes in a four-week long trial and a 471 page judgment. This is all related to his role as a nursing home operator in Georgia, where he had two nursing homes providing “worthless services.” The two nursing homes were in Rome, Georgia, and Houser also managed a third nursing facility between 2003 and 2007. The homes had insufficient staff and inadequate budgets. There were numerous physical problems: leaky roofs flooding residents’ rooms, no air conditioning or heating, broken laundry facilities, and bug infestations. Some residents were severely malnourished, losing weight while they stayed in the nursing homes. Mr. Houser allegedly told his staff to use their own money to buy the residents bread and milk, so they would not starve. Additionally he avoided paying payroll taxes on his employees and made infrequent payments to the IRS during the years at issue, and many of the checks he did send bounced. From this horrific scheme, the trial court found that Mr. Houser gained $2.28 million, put into his personal bank account, another $460,000 in his wife’s account, and $1.75 million in an account for his construction company between 2003 and 2007. With that money, he bought $4 million worth of property, luxury cars, and made alimony payments.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals found that Mr. Houser sought reimbursement from Medicare and Georgia’s Medicaid for services, such as pharmaceutical, diagnostic, medical, and dietary, that were not provided. The Court rejected Mr. Houser’s contention that he didn’t “wilfully” avoid paying taxes. The Court upheld Mr. Houser’s conviction and his 20-year prison sentence, plus more than $7 million in restitution to his victims. It also upheld the restitution of $870,000 to the IRS. The Appeals Court found that the trial court did not err in its April 2012 conviction and the evidence clearly supported the trial court’s decision, stating, “On appeal, Mr. Houser does not contest the deplorable conditions of his nursing homes; indeed, he recites, in detail, those conditions in his opening brief.” The decision also found, “We believe that this record, taken as a whole, reveals that Mr. Houser apprehended his obligation to pay over payroll taxes, but voluntarily and intentionally chose to spend available funds on the acquisition of personal goods and investment properties as opposed to satisfying his legal obligations. The record, therefore, amply supports the district court’s conviction.”
Mr. Houser is currently serving his prison sentence at a federal prison in Ashland, Kentucky.

Atlanta Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys

If a loved one has suffered from abuse in a nursing or care home, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer. To discuss your case and any steps to move forward with legal options to get any needed compensation, contact the Law Office of Sammons & Carpenter as soon as possible at 404-814-8948, or fill out our confidential online case evaluation form for a free consultation today.

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Our Atlanta nursing home abuse lawyers know that unlicensed nursing care homes are a problem in our state, which is why the Georgia Department of Community Health is partnering with the Georgia Bureau of Investigations to crack down on these unlicensed homes, according to news reports.

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The partnership also includes the Adult Protective Services, which is under the Department of Human Services. The group will be aggressive in working to stop unlicensed homes from staying in business. Clyde Reese, the commissioner of the Department of Community Health, said the facilities deliver “substandard care to the elderly and disabled.” The unlicensed homes are operating throughout Georgia, and many are near Atlanta and in southwest Georgia. Mr. Reese contends that it is a growing problem and that there are hundreds of unlicensed homes in the state, along with increased incidents of elder abuse. This is exacerbated by the vulnerable nature of seniors, who are often unable to defend themselves or even speak up about abuse. And to avoid legal troubles, unlicensed homes often switch residences.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigations intends to share intelligence and data gathering with the Department.

With sponsorship from Representative Sharon Cooper, the General Assembly of Georgia passed a new law earlier this year strengthening penalties for running an unlicensed nursing home. Now the first offense of abuse or neglect or exploitation is a felony in Georgia. The discussion of this law in the Assembly included horrible examples of abuse to demonstrate the clear need for a tougher legal regime. In Cobb County, an unlicensed nursing home kept a 50 year old patient with dementia in a garage that was “sweltering hot” and deprived the woman of food and medicine. Under the old legal regime, the responsible unlicensed care home owner got a one-day jail sentence after a plea bargain for time served. In addition to cases of physical abuse, exploitation is also a serious problem. Unlicensed care home owners trick elderly patients into signing over retirement checks and Social Security checks. The story of Alzheimer’s Care of Commerce where felons were employed, who then assaulted, restrained and over-medicated patients seemed to be a turning point in getting attention on the serious issue of unlicensed homes and elder abuse. Twenty people were arrested and there is an ongoing investigations into whether some of the deaths at the home were homicides.

Care in licensed facilities also needs scrutiny. Mr. Reese told reporters that the Department will have a re-bidding for contracts to coordinate care of the elderly and disabled under Medicaid and will begin next month, with more details to follow. The last bidding process came in over budget.

Atlanta Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys

If an elderly loved one has been the victim of elder abuse or is in an unlicensed nursing care home, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer. To discuss your family’s case and any steps to move forward, contact the Law Office of Sammons & Carpenter as soon as possible at 404-814-8948, or fill out our confidential online case evaluation form for a free consultation today.

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Dog bites have been in the news in recent weeks because of the video that went viral of a dog attacking a little boy, who was then saved by his pet cat. Our Atlanta dog bite lawyers read about another courageous little boy who is still recovering after being attacked by a pit bull dog. Jasper Poole, who is only four years old, was attacked by a relative’s pit bull when it was let outside. The dog bit the little boy’s leg and dragged him down stairs. Schley County Sheriff Shane Tondee said when police arrived, “We found a pit bull dog that had blood on him, blood on his face, and blood all over the door, the deck, and the ledge where the incident happened.”

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Recovery Included Surgery Physical Therapy

Two months later, Jasper still had a large wound on his leg, which required 300 stitches. The wounds included a severed calf muscle. The little boy has already gone through two surgeries. His mom, Lezlie Poole, said, “We come here three days a week, and we see a surgeon one day a week, we had to get a custom boot made for us that helps stretch his calf muscle so there’s a lot that goes into that.” His parents say he’s in high spirits, but he has to learn to walk again. Of his physical therapy, his mom said, “It’s like play time for him, he calls it working out. He gets to go to the gym and work out so he gets excited to do that.”
With the surgeries and physical therapy, Ms. Poole isn’t sure their medical insurance will cover everything, due to the extent of Jasper’s injuries. She is thankful for support from the community, and also the hospitals and surgeons, and said, “[T]hey’ve been so good with him especially since he’s so young.” She also says Jasper now is very afraid of dogs. She said, “We can’t walk down the street if there’s a dog that’s being walked, we go into a panic attack and we just cry and just cling to me or my husband.”

Georgia is 10th in the country for dog bite claims; the insurer State Farm alone paid about two million dollars in dog bite claims in 2013. This shows what a serious problem it is for our state, and how we need to work together to find ways to promote responsible dog ownership. The dog owners said that this pit bull was not known to be violent and had never behaved this way before, but Jasper’s case shows how much care needs to be taken with dogs, especially around vulnerable small children like Jasper.

Atlanta Dog Bite Attorneys

If you or a loved one has been attacked or bitten by a dangerous dog, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer. To discuss the specifics of your case and any steps to move forward in legal avenues to help pay for any injuries, contact the Law Office of Sammons & Carpenter as soon as possible at 404-814-8948, or fill out our confidential online case evaluation form for a free consultation today.

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